Daybell trial to move forward amid potential new DNA evidence

2 months ago

FREMONT COUNTY, Idaho (KIFI) - Seven motions were on the docket for Thursday's hearing, including four attempting to remove or exempt Lori Vallow-Daybell from the death penalty. Judge Steven Boyce denied a motion to postpone the trial and a request for face-to-face strategy meetings between the defendants.

Lori was "all smiles" as she entered the courtroom while Chad remained stone-faced throughout the nearly three-hour hearing.

Lori and Chad Daybell are charged with multiple counts of first-degree murder and conspiracy for the deaths of Lori's children “JJ” Vallow and Tylee Ryan – along with chad’s previous wife, Tammy Daybell.

Motion for joint settlement and strategy meetings

We now know for certain Chad Daybell and Lori Vallow-Daybell have not met face-to-face outside the courtroom since their arrest. However, Vallow-Daybell's attorneys Jim Archibald and John Thomas motioned for the couple to meet in person and over the phone to strategize and consider settlements for the upcoming trial in April.

“There is no more conspiracy to be had, there is no more evildoing to be had," Archibald said. "The point is we need to be able to talk settlement and to talk strategy.”

Archibald requested the court allow the Daybells and their attorneys to meet together for 30 minutes that wouldn't be recorded or used against them.

While the state expressed concerns defendants have attorney-client privilege with their own council, but not their fellow defendants. Any such meeting would effectively make the other attorney a witness.

Following this train of thought, Judge Boyce ruled to deny the request.

Motion to sequester the jury

Afterward, prosecuting attorneys made the request to sequester the jury at the start of the trial on April 3. Expressing concerns "that if the court doesn’t take steps to keep the juries isolated, that there will be a mistrial.”

Chad Daybell's attorney John Prior argued the duration of the trial will limit the jury pool, a two-month trial would make it impossible for them to find a jury that represents a fair cross-section of the community.

“The only thing that you’re doing is keeping the jurors from reading a paper of maybe getting on the internet..." Prior said. "The reality is the cat is out of the bag, everybody in the world knows about this case and there is no changing that.”

While Judge Boyce assured both sides he understands their concerns and view points, he denied the state's motion to keep the jury isolated.

"I believe adequate steps can be put into place to not sequester the jury during the course of the trial," Boyce said.

Motion to continue trial

Prior requested Judge Boyce delay the upcoming trial another year, as he is waiting for additional DNA evidence from the state, some of that potential evidence only discovered in late December of 2022.

“I have approximately 33-34 days to provide my expert opinion on DNA evidence that the state lab has been working on for 4 to 5 months. I won’t be able to do that,” Prior said.

“...It dumbfounds me that in 2 years of testing DNA evidence, they find new DNA evidence 9 weeks before trial. And I want to make it clear this is not the state(not the fault of prosecution attorneys wood and Blake),” Prior said.

While the state argued while a potential source of DNA evidence has been discovered, they do not believe the findings of that evidence will great effect on the outcome of the trial.

“There was a potential source of DNA evidence that was located, the state lab does not believe we will receive DNA evidence back.”

In rebuttal, Prior said he would like to use that evidence if it could potentially clear Daybell of guilt. And if he wasn't able to adequately look over that evidence, Daybell could accuse him of ineffective assistance, which would turn over the trial, requiring the trial to start over again.

Boyce concluded because the two trials are joined and Vallow-Daybell has not waived her right to a speedy trial, the trial needs to move forward.

“I’m denying the motion to continue the trail…If we are still on the eve of trial and the state has potentially exculpatory evidence and didn’t provide enough time for Mr. Prior to receive and have it tested…the cases may need to be severed," Boyce said.

Death penalty arguments

The state has made it known they are perusing the death penalty in both cases, to which Vallow-Daybell's attorney Jim Archibald adamantly objects.

Archibald cites eight death row inmates who have been on death row for years, constantly in the process of appeals

“If Idaho is successful in getting a jury to kill Lori Daybell, will she really be killed? History says no," Archibald said.

Additionally, Archibald argued the state has no constitutional grounds to give Vallow-Daybell the death penalty saying the state would have to show Vallow-Daybell intended for her children to die.

In response, Madison County Prosecuting Attorney Rob Wood said, "that's what the state intends to prove".

Judge Steven Boyce plans to make a written response to their arguments. The next court hearing is scheduled for Feb. 9.

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